MICHAEL Kaingu says Zambians are being unfair to themselves for not taking tourism as an effective alternative to grow the economy and create wealth.
In an interview, Kaingu who once served as tourism minister, said it was a pity that Zambians were failing to capitalise on the country’s natural resources.
“We are being unfair to ourselves honestly because in tourism we could have done quite a lot. Actually it is not only in tourism but almost in all sectors the people who are in charge now don’t want to involve the people who were there before them,” he noted. “It seems to be a disease in Africa not to consult from those who have been there before. We still have enough energy to help our country. For example, if I was a chairman for tourism I could help the minister. I’m not campaigning for a job but I’m trying to tell Zambians that if there is something that someone can offer then that person must be brought in. But here it’s a different scenario altogether. They want to appoint themselves and what! Even in other sectors what about [Ng’andu] Magande? He did very well at the Ministry of Finance and surely we should find something that he can do unless he refuses himself. There are so many people who have done very well out there waiting to be recognised. Today I hear that a minister or somebody signed for the repatriation or capturing of 80 black lechwe from Bangweulu. That is shameful. We said it to ourselves when we were still in government that we are not going to do anything to our black lechwe because this species is only endemic to Zambia.”
Kaingu said the danger of capturing black lechwe to private game ranches is that after it increases in number “you cannot stop them from selling outside the country.”
“So we are shooting ourselves down as a country where the tourism sector is concerned,” he said.
Kaingu said the country would have done much better in tourism had those that took over office built on the foundation laid by previous ministers.
He said current efforts in the tourism sector could not produce the desired goals.
“I think as a country we had just been scratching on this sector. People like Professor Patrick Kalifungwa, Kabinga Pande and myself, I think, did quite a lot in this sector. We laid the foundation which has now totally been ignored,” Kaingu stressed. “For example, we had designed land units. This time we could have developed new land units because tourism can bring food to the household of the poor. When I was at Ministry of Tourism we created six land units. We said we were going to develop Livingstone and the Victoria Falls. But now the focus is just on the falls. People are not marketing the town Livingstone itself, we are not marketing that town. So we are supposed to develop that area. When you go to Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh, the biggest investors there are Lebanese. We wanted to create plots in Livingstone and bring Lebanese so that they can develop that area by doing joint ventures with the Zambians. From there we wanted to come to Kafue National Park, you know that park is a country on its own. It’s a combination of three small countries in Europe, with so many species of wild animals, trees, pristine areas of forestry. We have failed to market these places. What about the now famous Lower Zambezi and Kariba in Siavonga as the third one? We wanted to create Lusaka as a hub for conferencing because it is situated at a very advantageous position.”
Kaingu said any conference in the region could not ignore Lusaka because one can fly from Congo, Botswana, Zimbabwe and other surrounding areas into Lusaka.
“So we wanted to create a hub. I even met the owner of Virgin Airline in New York when he went to pledge for US$25 million for climate change. I talked to him and I said, ‘please come to Zambia’. He said, ‘let me finish with Nigeria and South Africa from there I will come to Zambia’. I wrote to him copied to Dora Siliya who was communication and transport minister then so I don’t know if she did take a step from there,” he narrated. “We have done quite a lot. We have laid the foundation. Then there is northern circuit which I come up with the Mbala ring road, Nsumbu National Park, that area the Bangweulu where now you are selling the black lechwe [and] Lake Chila. You know it’s an historical area for the German army so if they could be courted, they can come through to develop that area. South and North Luangwa all those are under the land units.”
Kaingu said at Sefula in Western Province there were graves for the French, which the French could also be courted to develop as a historical site.
“We could have done a lot as a country but we don’t know which one of the land units and what kind of development is being done there now. I’m not criticising anybody. I’m speaking as somebody who knows,” he said. “They wanted to remove the remains of the Ngoni chief who was killed in the Bembaland. I had to intervene as then minister of tourism. We are available and people don’t want to come for help so we will go with our knowledge and brains to the grave. Yes, I will go out with my knowledge. You know the Zambia that helped me to get this knowledge will lose out. Anything that you can talk about today such as climate change, when that topic was starting I was there. What about the relationship between culture and climate change, who is talking about these things? I was there but nobody wants to use me because they think if they involve me they will look like they don’t know. What is important is the aggregate goal, not being individualistic. This is our country so our economy is really yearning for help, it’s desperate yet a lot can be changed. Those that can contribute in mining let them be brought in such as that man Sixtus Mulenga. You remember that guy? He knows mining and there are many others who could help but are simply left out like that. We don’t all need to be ministers but we can contribute in many ways.”
Kaingu said currently the country’s economy was in a desperate situation and required pragmatic ideas from those with experience and have technical know-how.
“… the minister of finance is being economical with the truth. This economy cannot even grow at three per cent and assuming that it grew, still three per cent GDP is nothing because our wants are beyond three per cent, our needs in the hospital and other social sector are beyond three per cent GDP. So your three per cent my friend is nothing. We need to try by all means to push our GDP to six per cent,” Kaingu said.
“If [President Paul] Kagame can do it in a mountainous country, why not us with plenty arable land and natural resources? People of Rwanda have promoted their tourism sector and tourists from around the globe are visiting Rwanda because its citizens are able to advertise. We have everything here but we are failing to realise something. The Bible is right where it says my people are perishing for lack of knowledge.”
He said it was a pity that the country had not paid much attention to tourism.
“The just ended Southern Province Expo, you know we missed it. We went into agriculture and mining, how many mines do we have here? How much agriculture do we have? But our focus when you look at this province now should be tourism. We have Lochinvar National Park where we have different species of birds only endemic in Lochinvar. We have quite a lot and I feel tourism should have driven the South Expo while the other sectors could have just supported tourism but we lost it,” Kaingu said. “I was the leading discussant in tourism sector at the South Expo and I was given five minutes. What can I say surely in five minutes because I should talk about development? How we should develop and market tourism, bring in tourists, where are these tourists are coming from, [and] how the sector is contributing to the GDP. Tourism has so many sub-sets – culture tourism where you can even have village lodges, traditional dancers and those that can express themselves in various ways and people pay them money. We have what we call culinary where people can propose food so tourism can provide even for people in rural areas. We also have what we call wellness. Today it’s anything to create wellness gardens where people can walk through. It’s something today people go to India for wellness tourism. We have eco-tourism or ethno tourism where you go to interact with people. So tourism is so much, it’s vast. We can create wealth for people. In tourism we create wealth because for me at Kozo Lodge here what I do is to offer opportunities to the people who are rearing chickens, people who are growing cabbage, so in tourism we create wealth for the people.”
Kaingu suggested that should the South Expo be held next year, there would be need to focus on tourism because it had potential to bring success in the province.